California Procedure,  Judgment

Enforcing a Foreign Judgment

You don’t always get three positions advocated on a single issue in a single appeal. On the subject of the statute of limitations for enforcing a foreign money judgment, that’s exactly what the Court of Appeal heard in Guimaraes v. Northrup Grumman, case no. B194205 (2d Dist. Oct. 30, 2007).

For the position that the “catch-all” limitations period of Code of Civil Procedure section 343 applies, Northrup relied on a 116-year-old California Supreme Court case. Not usually a good sign. And despite prevailing in the trial court, Northrup loses on appeal. The court adopts Guimaraes’s position that the intervening enactment of the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1713-1713.8) results in a 10-year limitations period because section 1713.3 makes foreign judgments “enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state which is entitled to full faith and credit,” and such sister state judgments are subject to a 10-year limitations period. (Code Civ. Proc., § 337.5, subd. 3.)

A third position was advocated in an amicus brief from a law firm that frequently represents clients seeking to enforce foreign money judgments in California courts. That firm contended that a foreign judgment may be enforced so long as it is enforceable in the country where it was rendered. The Court of Appeal did not reach that contention.

The court notes that significant questions regarding foreign judgment enforcement that it need not consider are under consideration in a case under review by the California Supreme Court. (Manco Contracting Co. v. Bezdikian, review granted Aug. 22, 2007, S154076.) According to the case summary page at the Supreme Court’s website,though, Manco appears to pose the exact question at issue in this case: the statute of limitations applicable to the enforcement of foreign money judgments. If that apparent equivalence of issues is real, then Guimaraes is an excellent candidate for “grant and hold” review by the Supreme Court, whereby the Supreme Court can grant review but hold the case until it decides Manco.